Friday, December 24, 2010

The Wedding Song: Grade A

The Wedding Song (2008)

Lizzie Brocheré, Olympe Borval, Najib Oudghiri; Writer-Director Karin Albou. (Arabic and French; subtitled).

The Nazis have occupied Tunisia in the early 1940’s and have begun rounding up the Jews. In Tunis, two young women have formed a deep friendship, one an Arab Muslim (Borval), the other a Sephardic Jew (Brochere). The middle class but economically stressed, French-speaking woman is betrothed to an older, wealthy physician, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Paris, but she hates him. The servant-class Arabic woman carries on a torrid sexual affair with her fiancé, but marriage is forbidden by her father until the young man gets a job, which he finally does, as a Nazi informer on the Jews. Can the girls’ friendship survive the stresses of matrimony, religion, social class, colonialism, and wartime occupation?

In addition to the compelling story of friendship, the movie is highly instructional about Tunisian Arabic and French colonial culture, especially with regard to the tribulations of female sexuality in both cultures. Naked females are starkly exposed on screen but the nudity is neither glamorized nor prurient. Rather it is used to make intimate and disturbing comments on the plight of the women and on the meaning of marriage in general.

Writing and directing (Albou) are both excellent in this zero-budget film, but the cinematography suffers from what is probably low budget technology, so many of the movie’s images are dark and muddy, to the point of being difficult to see. Nevertheless, individual scenes and sets are well-composed and photographed, when you can see them. Acting is very strong by all the players, and overall, the complex, intimate, and emotional story line will keep you glued.

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